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Sam Wyche and 'The First Lady'
Here's the transcript from Show 130 of weekly Outside The Lines - Sam Wyche and 'The First Lady'
ANNOUNCER- September 22, 2002.
SAM WYCHE, 12 YEARS AS NFL COACH- You're going to do something! Come on!
BOB LEY, HOST- His was a voice NFL fans remembered until a routine procedure left him unable to speak.
WYCHE- They accidentally cut the nerve to my left vocal cord.
Did the right thing. You picked up four or five yards. We're OK.
LEY- Now out of the spotlight, Sam Wyche is back, doing what he does best.
Also this week -- She's not Annika. She's not even on the LPGA tour. But this soccer mom may well be the first woman to ever play in a men's PGA tour event.
SUZY WHALEY, 1ST WOMAN TO QUALIFY FOR PGA TOUR EVENT- If I've opened some doors for some women, or even some young girls, for golf, terrific.
LEY- Today on Outside The Lines, the historic decision facing the first lady. And his health in a fragile state, how Sam Wyche confronts his future.
He was the dash of Tabasco in the oftentimes bland stew of the National Football League. He spoke his mind, he employed trick plays, and he brought an energy and spontaneity to a sport so often pre-programmed. He's Sam Wyche. He would be a member of that exclusive fraternity of 17 men, living Super Bowl championship coaches, except for a legendary drive engineered by Joe Montana, whom he had tutored at quarterback.
The NFL has been his life, from his days carrying the clipboard as a back-up QB to that Christmas Eve he was fired as coach of the Bengals to the Sunday's he spent analyzing games on network television. And now at the young age of 57, Sam Wyche is out of pro football after an unlikely procession of medical problems that nearly stilled one of the more vibrant voices in the game -- nearly, but not quite, as Curry Kirkpatrick explains.
CURRY KIRKPATRICK, ESPN CORRESPONDENT- In the NFL's rich history, only four men have reached the Super Bowl as a player, an assistant coach and a head coach. The last to do it was Sam Wyche. Throughout his 23-year NFL career, Wyche was one of the most colorful voices in the game -- as a coach...
WYCHE- Will the next person that sees anybody throw anything onto this field point them out and get them out of here. You don't live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati.
KIRKPATRICK- ... and eventually as a broadcaster.
WYCHE- Smart quarterback, quick decisions. Marv Levy thinks he's a poise player.
KIRKPATRICK- But now he's settled down to farm and family and working at a simpler vocation.
WYCHE- The Bengals fired me, and the Buccaneers fired me. So I'm trying to hold onto this job, so I'd appreciate it, you know, if you'd act like you're getting stuff out of this class in case the principal walks in again.
I'm doing something I always wanted to do but never really had a time to do it. So I'm a substitute teacher now in Pickens County in South Carolina, and I'm -- so far, so good.
Is everybody in now? Everybody into the program? Nobody's stuck. OK.
KIRKPATRICK- And all because of a fluke play that not even the innovative "Sudden Sam" could possibly have seen developing.
WYCHE- My wife and I were flying back from Daytona Beach, and we landed, and I had some chest pains. We went to the emergency room. They said, "You've got enlarged lymph nodes. You got blood clots in both lungs. You've got an irregular heartbeat." During the process of all this evaluation, the doctors went in and biopsied the lymph nodes that were enlarged. And in doing so, they accidentally cut the nerve to my left vocal cord.
KIRKPATRICK- That is, they cut off his voice, leaving their patient, who had made two lucrative livings by speaking, unable to speak anymore.
WYCHE- It's permanent. It's going to be that way. When that cord was cut, it snaps like an Achilles tendon would. It doesn't rejuvenate. So instead of my vocal cords working like this, this one lays paralyzed, and my right one's doing all the work. So I've had some surgeries. I don't know if you can see my scars right there, but I've got a -- I had three surgeries and another procedure to put an implant in there to position this one so that I could talk. After about two or three months, I could only whisper.
KIRKPATRICK-Would you be doing a game and your voice would just get softer, gravellier, or what...
WYCHE- As soon as I try to raise my voice, it gets gravelly. It's scratchy. They put me back on the air. The second -- and after one game, it was apparent I couldn't go.
JANE WYCHE, SAM'S WIFE- If he was devastated -- and I'm sure he was -- he never showed it. He's real good about hiding that part. And he would make jokes about everything to keep from feeling bad for him.
WYCHE- I've had a lot of calls from players saying, "Why the heck didn't this happen 25 years ago, when you were yelling at us to run one more lap?"
I didn't go into a depression, but I went into a state of wonderment and wonder what's going to happen next.
KIRKPATRICK- What happened next was even more devastating. Wyche learned he had a condition called cardiomyopathy, which limits the amount of blood the heart pumps throughout the body. A healthy male heart pumps 55 to 60 percent of the heart's blood on each beat. Wyche's heart was pumping only 14 percent.
WYCHE- It's a condition caused by a virus where my heart is slowly deteriorating, slowly dying. And I'm taking medication right now, and it's holding steady. In fact, I've regained a little more -- a little use of my heart, more than I had.
KIRKPATRICK- Your whole life is now becoming -- going through a change here.
WYCHE- Oh, yes. My entire life has changed, and I -- yes, I guess I went through anger, short periods, though, very short periods of being angry and disappointed and disgusted and all those kind of things, and then just resigning myself to the fact that this is the dealt hand that I had, and I was going to play it. They keep telling me that when a door closes, another one opens. But that last door slammed me right in the tail! And I went out, and I'm still kind of getting my balance.
KIRKPATRICK- The throat and heart medications had affected Wyche's energy level to the point where he had no desire to even get out of bed. But then a call came from Andy Tweito, the head coach at Pickens High.
WYCHE- He called me out of the blue. "I understand you're going to be substitute teaching. While you're hanging around campus, you want to -- you want to work with the QBs?"
ANDY TWEITO, PICKENS H.S. HEAD FOOTBALL COACH- I was afraid to ask him because I didn't want to do anything that would be demeaning. I told somebody else, I said, "It'd be like calling Michelangelo and asking him to come paint your kitchen."
JANE WYCHE- This is something to do that he's always loved doing. And he had a big smile on his face and I was happy to get him out of the house!
WYCHE- If you'd have thrown right away, you had the -- you had the hook. But you had to throw it right away.
KIRKPATRICK- Do you ever find you go to speak loud on the field or maybe to a student or whatever, and you have to catch yourself? Or does it hurt?
WYCHE- It doesn't hurt, but it sounds like it hurts. And so it's called a "hard listen," if you're trying to understand me. Every now and then, I can actually get out a pretty loud yip.
I do this, and this is as loud as it goes. I can't get any louder.
I don't think they're scared or intimidated. I think they were curious that, you know, what was this guy like that used to work with -- I don't think they know me at all. I think they know Boomer Esiason, Joe Montana, and so they are saying, "Geez, he knows those guys. I'd like to hear what he has to say about them."
Never get down to the goal line and then start your play with a snap count, costing us five yards. Just go right on the count they know the most.
KIRKPATRICK- You obviously still want to coach. I mean, is that -- might you want to take this to other levels?
WYCHE- If I could do it, I'd like to maybe get back into coaching slowly and surely, but I'm not sure if I ever will get back into it. You know, once you get out of the loop a little bit...
JANE WYCHE- Well, he's missed football terribly. I can tell by the way he talks that he would just give anything to get back into coaching, pro coaching.
WYCHE- I need you here! I need you here! I don't need to yell!
KIRKPATRICK- But his voice is not conducive to screaming at dozens of players, not to mention over tens of thousands of fans. And what about the health of his heart?
WYCHE- If it continues to deteriorate, down the road -- it's not the next step, but it's the last step would be a heart transplant. And that could happen in a few years. We don't know.
KIRKPATRICK- This is something that would have just knocked a lot of people out. You said you never got depressed.
WYCHE- I have not been depressed, though I will say that -- thank goodness, I haven't been depressed, but I have been kind of looking for the next step, trying to find my way. And it's left me empty in a lot of ways, and I guess I'm empty up here, is where I'm empty. I just wish something would come along, and I think it will pretty darn soon now, that says, "OK, this is what the Lord had for you to do right now anyway, so you can just quit trying to pull away and go some other direction."
LEY- And joining us live this morning is Sam Wyche. He is home in Pickens, South Carolina.
Good morning, Sam.
WYCHE- Good morning. You made me look good there, for a change. That was good!
LEY- Well, here we are, the first Sunday in autumn. It is an NFL Sunday. What's it like to sit home, though, as a guy who's given his life to the NFL, and watch those games on the tube?
WYCHE- Well, you know, I remember what happened not only just this morning but last night at the meetings that the players are having, the bed checks, and then this morning, the morning chapel and the pre-game meal and that one last comment where you gather the guys together to try to wrap everything up in a ball and, hopefully, they beat on the lockers and hit the field. You just miss that. I think more than anything, it's the competition. You know, like, anybody that's been in a game, you know that the --the competition, the competing, the chance that you might win or lose -- that's what makes it exciting.
LEY- How's your voice holding up on the sidelines? I know it's one thing to do it at practice, but now your team's 4-0, doing very well, but working over the crowd with the kids during the game?
WYCHE- Yes. The Blue Flame are 4-0. They're winning big without me because I stand at the other end. I don't do any of the play calling. Coach Tweito does that, and designing the plays and breaking down. I'm just having fun working with the quarterbacks on technique and contributing where I can there. Basically, if I stay out of the way, I'm more valuable to them than if I do get in the way.
LEY- But who's getting more out of this, you or the kids, do you think?
WYCHE- Well, they'd have to be getting an awful lot to get more out of it than I am, I'll tell you that. I'm having a blast.
LEY- In fact, I guess, even as an NFL coach, you could begin to sense what even a professional player is able to carry forward from his high school coach.
WYCHE- Well, you know, I have had over the years so many professional players, the big-time guys that make a bunch of money, would come up to me during practice and say, "You know, when I was in high school, my high school coach used to tell me this," or "We used to run a drill like this, and this really helped me." I think that all high school coaches and teachers and people that are around kids at that age are so influential in the development of that, and they remember. They don't forget. Sometimes they don't come back and thank the person that told them something that was important in their life, but they remember it and it affects their lives.
LEY- Now, we hear your voice, but also we remember you're living with a pacemaker. You're dealing with cardiomyopathy. You're dealing with cardiac medication. How is life with a pacemaker?
WYCHE- Oh, good. I've got -- actually, I have the same pacemaker, sits right up here -- I've got the same pacemaker -- and I might do this to help my voice a little bit, but...
WYCHE- ... that Dick Cheney has the same one. He uses it during the week, and I get it on weekends, so it's working out great that way.
WYCHE- But I -- you know, I mend the fences and feed the horses and do everything that I would normally do. The only thing that this has done is slow me down for a year or so, and I'm back ready to go again.
LEY- I was going to say -- how close are you -- you've talked about figuring out the next step. How close are you to figuring out what that next step might be?
WYCHE- Well, I tell you, I'm -- my every senses -- all of my senses are open to make sure I know when the next step arrives, more than anything else. I guess I'm not trying to force anything into my life right now. But we live in a great part of the world down here in Pickens, South Carolina. And by the way, don't tell anymore of those Yankees where it is because we got it -- we got it under control. We don't need any more of them down here. I'm only kidding to the Yankees!
WYCHE- There are a bunch of them down here.
LEY- I can imagine.
WYCHE- You know what they do? They come down, they -- "This is how you should do things," and we say, "Well, why did you leave the North to come here?" "Well, it was too crowded. There was, you know, congestion. There was smog." And we say, "Well, we're doing fine. Just leave us alone." But I'm just waiting for whatever happens and...
LEY- Could that include the NFL?
WYCHE- It -- yes, if it did, I'd be very happy about that. But I don't know that it will. Honestly, as mentioned in that piece, once you get out of the circle, it's very hard to get back in sometimes.
LEY- You got back on the golf course the other day. How'd you do?
WYCHE- I'm a bogey golfer. I'm terrible. I used to actually make pars and birdies on occasion. Now I'm celebrating, giving it the silent cheer when I leave, if I bogey one.
LEY- Sam Wyche, we appreciate your being with us. And from everybody connected with football and television sports, we wish you the best of luck and continued and increased good health.
WYCHE- All right. Thank you very much.
LEY- All right, Sam Wyche, thanks a great deal for being with us.
As we continue, we will meet the first woman to ever qualify for a men's PGA tour event. She realizes it's a big deal.
WHALEY- You know, I do sometimes. I think, "Oh, gosh," you know, "What have I done?" because it's just overwhelming. So I'm trying to take it all in stride and take one day at a time.
LEY- The question of gender in golf had been limited to Augusta National's membership policy excluding women at the home of the Master's golf tournament. That issue, however, was turned on its ear this week. Suzy Whaley did it. As one of only two women in the 90-person field, she won a PGA tour sectional tournament, becoming the first woman to qualify for a men's PGA tour event, in this case the GHO, or Greater Hartford Open. Whaley competed two years on the LPGA tour in the early 1990s, and now she is a teaching pro at a public course, and she's considering whether to play in a men's tournament.
This suburban Connecticut soccer mom has already made history and is poised to make even more, a fact that dawned on her only gradually last Tuesday before the final round of the PGA sectional championship.
WHALEY- A gentleman from the PGA section office drove his cart over and said to me, "Suzy, what will you do if you qualify for the GHO today?" My mom and I just looked at each other and started laughing and just started walking down the hill, like, "Oh, come on," you know, "As if."
LEY- With her victory, her life has changed, with worldwide attention.
WHALEY- At the end of the day, when I checked my voice mail and there are 120 messages, and I went home and there were 68 messages, and my cell phone had, you know, numerous messages, and my e-mail was locked up because it couldn't take any more e-mails, you know, and I thought this has become a very big deal.
MARY ANN MCGUIRE, WHALEY'S MOTHER, CADDIED FOR WHALEY IN SECTIONAL CHAMP.- I think this could only be good for young golfers and for us golfers who are just always going to be amateurs. I think it's fun to see a woman take the national stage. It gives us some inspiration, and it shows us what, really, a woman can do.
LEY- This is hardly new ground for Suzy Whaley. Three months ago, though she missed the cut, she became the first woman to play in the PGA's Club Pro championship.
WHALEY- I grew up playing on a boys' golf team, and there's still a lot of high schools in the country that only have male golf teams. And I think maybe now some of those girls that are teenagers will say, "Well, you know what? I can play on that male golf team if I want to." And I would hope that's what they would do.
LEY- Whaley has until next summer's tournament to make her decision, and she intends to use much of that time. She did play from shorter tees in this week's qualifying tournament, but next year would play from the same tees as the world's best, players who would out-drive her by as much as 70 yards.
WHALEY- I need to figure out if I'm capable of playing a golf course that has rough that's much higher than I'm used to playing, that's longer than I'm used to playing, that the greens are faster than I'm used to playing.
LEY- In the meantime, she's trying to maintain her routine as a teaching pro and as the mother of two young girls.
WHALEY- You know, my daughter asked, actually my husband last night. She said, "Daddy, what is going on?" You know? And so he explained it to her and talked to her about it. But you know, my daughters, they don't know. They just think it's another tournament where I play against the boys. They don't really understand all the hoopla. They're, like, "Well, Mommy, aren't you just going to play against the boys?" because that's what I usually do, as they see it. So they just -- you know, they just want me to be at soccer practice, you know? It's not much about what I did. It's "Mommy, are you coming tonight?" So -- which is great. That's the way it should be.
LEY- And Suzy Whaley joins us this morning from her club, Blue Fox Run in Avon, Connecticut.
Good morning, Suzy.
WHALEY- Good morning.
LEY- I imagine you're getting a great deal of unsolicited advice about your decision from all over. What has that been like this week?
WHALEY- Very supportive. I think everybody that I've come in contact with -- at the facility, in general -- has been very supportive of my play and congratulations all around to me.
LEY- Has anyone said maybe you shouldn't play the GHO?
WHALEY- Not a person yet.
LEY- You've talked about making your decision. You've talked about, of course, the length of the course, but also a sense of responsibility. What do you mean about that?
WHALEY- I think it's a large responsibility. When I won my PGA sectional championship, for me it was really just about winning a golf tournament. And when I won that day, it was attached to it. It was just, "Here it is. Here you are. You've landed in this place and now can be the first woman to ever play in a PGA tour event." That's a little overwhelming, and the responsibility of it all is overwhelming, too.
LEY- What does it mean that here you are, until Tuesday an anonymous club pro, being put in this position, and not a future LPGA Hall of Famer? How does that change the entire landscape of such an event like this?
WHALEY- It -- for me, I'm very grounded. My children keep me that way. My family does. I'm trying very hard to just go about my business and take all of this in stride while I sit back and try to enjoy my win, too.
LEY- Give us the timetable. You've got to decide whether to play in this tournament. What are the factors you're going to weigh? And how do you see yourself towards the calendar, towards next year, making this decision?
WHALEY- You know, I'd like to get in contact with a lot of people that I respect in the industry and hear their opinion about what they think I should do. The pros and the cons -- I need to weigh those. And I really don't have a timetable on it. It's just a little mind-boggling, and I'm going to take my time in the place where I am right now.
LEY- Your husband runs the TPC of Cromwell, where this tournament's going to be held. Now, what are these conversations like across the kitchen table?
WHALEY- You know, he's supportive of me either way. You know, if I tee up at the GHO, he will be right there for me.
LEY- Of course, there's no small amount of irony, with your accomplishment coming along at the same time as the entire controversy over the membership policy at Augusta National. I'm going to roll a piece of tape here for you. Here's the defending U.S. Women's Open champion, Juli Inkster, her thoughts on exactly that policy and what the Master's might do.
JULI INKSTER, U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN CHAMPION- I think, given the opportunity, I think a woman there would -- not just a woman, maybe a few women would really, you know, make that club an all-around great club. You know, I think there's a lot of issues out there that women are discriminated in. So it is a type of racism. Whether you like it or not, it is a type of racism. And I'd like to see all racism go.
LEY- Suzy, where do you come down on this controversy?
WHALEY- You know, I agree with Juli. I would like to see women at Augusta, and more than one female at Augusta, as she said. You know, Augusta is a private country club. They do get to decide their own rules and regulations at this point. But I know in time, Augusta will make the right choice.
LEY- Now, you've got this decision to make about your participation in the Greater Hartford Open while this other controversy is percolating around. Are you going to be able to focus and just make a decision for you? In other words, are there people, or can you see those that would -- may want to hijack your issue and meld it to the bigger issue here?
WHALEY- Right. No, I think the people that I'm going to surround myself with to make this decision will help me not do that. I do want to make the decision for me and for my family and try to make the best one.
LEY- And your kids, they have some sense that this is happening, but it's still Mom and getting a lot of attention.
WHALEY- Absolutely. They both won their soccer games yesterday. That's all that matters.
LEY- All right. Suzy, congratulations on your victory on Tuesday, and good luck as you approach that decision.
WHALEY- Thank you very much.
LEY- All right, Suzy, really, thanks a great deal, as she's joined us live this morning.
Next up, we'll have your feedback on last week's look at the ethics of NFL medicine and the complicated relationship between players and their team doctors.
It is an enduring issue, how National Football League team physicians are involved in medical decisions involving injured players, amid the pressure to win and the desire of pro players to be on the field. Last week, we examined that question, and I asked our guests whether team physicians should be directly employed by NFL teams.
O.J. MCDUFFIE, MIAMI DOLPHINS WIDE RECEIVER (1993-2001)- I definitely don't think so. Then it's really going to be a problem. If they're working for the team, they're really not going to have the players' best interests at heart.
LEY- Dr. Pellman, you're chairman of...
DR. ELLIOT PELLMAN, CHAIRMAN, NFL JETS MEDICAL DEPARTMENT- Well...
LEY- ... the Jets medical department, then, right?
PELLMAN- Correct. And I guess I disagree with what O.J. said. I think that our ethics and our careers are based upon the care that we give to our patients.
LEY- Who should make the...
MCDUFFIE- I think a lot of doctors risk that, though. A lot of doctors -- we need to clone you, then, Dr. Pellman, because that's not -- a lot of doctors don't feel that way.
LEY- A viewer from North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, e-mailing, "Until the medical decisions of the athlete can be made solely by the medical staff without repercussions that could potentially cause the loss of one's job, you will continue to have decisions made that can and will, in fact, put the health care of athletes at risk."
From Philadelphia, "It might have been nice to hear Dr. Pellman's answer to 'Would you personally be willing to entrust your own medical care to a physician if you knew he owed his livelihood to someone who had a compelling financial interest in your being pronounced fit?'"
And this from Manchaug, Massachusetts, "I am typing this with one hand while my left shoulder recovers from my third reconstructive surgical procedure in less than a year. After 15 years of football, I have had 13 arthroscopies and two major reconstructive surgeries on my knees. All my physicians agree on one thing -- If I would have had proper treatment and rest, I would not be in the shape that I am in today."
Check us out online. Our keyword is OTLWeekly at ESPN.com for our library of transcriptions and streaming video. And we look forward to your e-mail feedback on Sam Wyche and Suzy Whaley. Our e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for being in touch.